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Morris v. Person

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 20, 2014




This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 45) and Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 60) filed by Defendants, Dr. Michael Person ("Dr. Person"), Dr. Christopher Nelson ("Dr. Nelson"), and Dr. Richard Tanner ("Dr. Tanner") (collectively, "Defendants"). The Plaintiff, Donald Morris ("Mr. Morris"), a former inmate of the Indiana Department of Correction and the Plainfield Correctional Facility, filed this action alleging he was denied constitutionally adequate medical care. For the reasons stated below the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED and their Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.


"The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court should state on the record the reasons for granting or denying the motion." Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If the moving party meets its burden of showing that there are no issues of material fact and that he or she is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law, the non-moving party must "go beyond the pleadings and affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact." Borello v. Allison, 446 F.3d 742, 748 (7th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "The nonmovant will successfully oppose summary judgment only when it presents definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion." Vukadinovich v. Bd. of Sch. Trs., 278 F.3d 693, 699 (7th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation and citation omitted). See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A), (B) (both the party "asserting that a fact cannot be, " and a party asserting that a fact is genuinely disputed, must support their assertions by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, " or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.").

"If the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with these rules or a court order, a defendant may move to dismiss the action or any claim against it." Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b).


The evidentiary record, construed most favorably toward Mr. Morris as the nonmovant, shows the following: Mr. Morris has diabetes and at the time relevant to the claim and events in this case was an inmate of the Indiana Department of Correction. Dr. Person, Dr. Nelson, and Dr. Tanner are each Indiana physicians who were responsible for rendering some medical care to Mr. Morris or making some decision regarding his medical care during his imprisonment. There came a point when it became necessary for the great toe on Mr. Morris's right foot to be amputated. The Defendants had specific involvement with the Mr. Morris's medical care during specific periods of time.

Mr. Morris was seen by Dr. Pearson on January 17, 2009. A superficial wound was cleaned and dressed. No infection was present. Dr. Pearson ordered dressing changes and a follow-up appointment. On January 23, 2009, Dr. Pearson examined Mr. Morris due to a loose nail on his great right toe. On February 8, 2009, Mr. Morris was examined by an LPN and was advised to buy Band-Aids from the commissary. He was also advised that he could buy shoes in the commissary or switch to state-issued shoes. Three days later, Dr. Pearson examined Mr. Morris and reviewed medication he was taking. On November 30, 2009, Dr. Pearson examined Mr. Morris and found an ulcer on the right side of the great toe of the left foot and bottom of the toe of the right foot. Dressing changes and x-rays were ordered. On January 5, 2010, Dr. Pearson informed Mr. Morris that the foot soaks had been working and that his feet were looking better. Dr. Pearson denied Mr. Morris's request for a different pain medication and advised Mr. Morris to continue with Tylenol.

On March 17, 2010, Dr. Nelson examined Mr. Morris and reported the wound on his right foot to be 3 cm, ulcerated and malodorous. Eight days later, Dr. Nelson examined Mr. Morris's right foot and cut away the dead skin around the ulcerated wound. Dr. Nelson referred Mr. Morris to an outside hospital with a wound clinic. Mr. Morris was transported to the Wishard Memorial Hospital Wound Clinic in May 2010, at which time x-rays were taken and no infection was seen in his wound. He had more dead skin cut off and was fitted for orthopedic boots. Mr. Morris received numerous treatments for his foot by nursing staff from January 2010 through August 2010. An examination on August 28, 2010 revealed that Mr. Morris's feet "were looking very bad." Unfortunately, his toe could not be saved and an amputation was performed on October 4, 2010. The amputation was not performed by or under the direction of any of the Defendants, nor based on the medical judgment of any of them.

Dr. Tanner enters the picture on July 16, 2012, when he ordered ointment for Mr. Morris, rather than performing an examination. Mr. Morris was told that Dr. Tanner would try to get approval for a consultation with a specialist. On July 27, 2012, Mr. Morris's foot remained swollen and he was prescribed no pain medication. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Morris was evaluated for a new medical shoe by a physical therapist. He received that shoe on August 1, 2012.

On August 23, 2012, Mr. Morris, pro se, filed a Complaint alleging Defendants violated his constitutional rights by acting with deliberate indifference to his serous medical need following complications with his diabetes resulting in amputation of his great toe on his right foot. Thereafter, Defendants moved for summary judgment and provided Mr. Morris with notice pursuant to Local Rule 56-1. Because Mr. Morris failed to respond to the Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants filed, in the alternative, a Motion to Dismiss for failure to comply with a court order.


"It is undisputed that the treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which he is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment." Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993). Pursuant to the Eighth Amendment, prison officials have a duty to provide humane conditions of confinement, meaning they must take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates and ensure that they receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). In the context presented here, "[p]rison officials violate the Constitution if they are deliberately indifferent to prisoners' serious medical needs. A claim based on deficient medical care must demonstrate two elements: 1) an objectively serious medical condition, and 2) an official's deliberate indifference to that condition." Williams v. Liefer, 491 F.3d 710, 714 (7th Cir. 2007) (some internal citations omitted). As to the second element, "[t]o show deliberate indifference, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant was actually aware of a serious medical need but then was deliberately indifferent to it." Knight v. Wiseman, 590 F.3d 458, 463 (7th Cir. 2009). For the Defendants, medical professionals, to be liable for deliberate indifference to an inmate's medical needs, they must make a decision that represents "such a substantial departure from accepted professional judgment, practice, or standards, as to demonstrate that the person responsible actually did not base the decision on such a judgment.'" Sain v. Wood, 512 F.3d 886, 895 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Collignon v. Milwaukee County, 163 F.3d 982, 988 (7th Cir. 1998)); see also Johnson v. Doughty, 433 F.3d 1001, 1013 (7th Cir. 2006).

Mr. Morris has not opposed the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, either with evidentiary material or with a narrative statement suggesting that the Defendants are not entitled to summary judgment based on the pleadings and the evidentiary record. As the current version of Rule 56 makes clear, whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the granting of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). On summary ...

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